23rd APRIL 2020 - Page 3

NOVEMBER 23 2017
FARM editorial
WEEK by Robert Irwin
new to learn
LOOMING: Karen Hughes,
RUAS and Mark Logan,
Chairman of the Winter Fair
Committee, are reminding
dairy livestock exhibitors that
the close of entry deadline for
the 2017 Royal Ulster Winter
Fair is Wednesday, November
29 at 5pm. Visit www.
winterfair.org.uk to view this
year’s Prize Schedule and to
enter online, entries can also
be made by contacting the
RUAS directly on 028 9066
ESEARCH funded by farmers in Northern Ireland reached a milestone this
week with the 20th anniversary of the
establishment of AgriSearch.
Born in an era when the Government
was shying away from funding all research
work, it was agreed that if farmers made a
contribution towards the cost of research
from which they were likely to benefit,
then the Government would continue to
make public money available.
And so the Agricultural Research and
Development Council was established,
to be re-named as AgriSearch when it
achieved charitable status in the new
millennium. Funding came from a levy
on each litre of milk and on all cattle and
sheep sold through local processors.
The guiding principles from 20 years ago
continue to be the basis of decision-making today. Every penny of levy is spent
on research and development or knowledge transfer; producers have full control,
through advisory committees, of how the
money is spent; the research undertaken
has a practical benefit to producers and
AgriSearch continues to seek maximum
leverage of complementary funding from
industry sources.
A host of beneficial projects have been
completed in the last 20 years. For dairy
farmers there have been topics ranging
from ‘Improving milk composition in the
dairy herd’ to ‘Low input forages for dairy
cow production systems.’ and many other
topics with real on-farm relevance.
Beef farmers have seen work on ‘Factors
affecting the dirtiness of finished beef cattle’
and ‘Development of systems to improve
dairy origin beef young stock health and
There have also been a considerable
number of sheep projects – indeed, some
145 projects across all enterprises have
been part-funded by AgriSearch in the
past 20 years.
One of the most high-profile projects has
been the GrassCheck measurements which
give a weekly record of grass growth at
various locations, helping farmers to plan
ahead to improve their grass utilisation.
While farmers have not always delved
into the recesses of scientific reports
on some of the work undertaken, numerous farm walks and information events
have disseminated the information
gathered during research projects in a
farmer-friendly way.
Farmers here have benefited from having
research workers who are invariably the
sons and daughters of local farmers, with
an intimate knowledge of the type of work
which will be of benefit on local farms.
AgriSearch is to be congratulated on
reaching this milestone. At times in the
past farmers have doubted the benefit of
the levies taken from them, although they
are not burdensome, but a cursory examination of the work undertaken over the
past 20 years and the undoubted benefits
gained should allay their concerns.
It is said that all boats float on a rising
tide and whilst some producers do not realise they are utilising research findings,
by endeavouring to ‘keep up’ with the
many innovators across the country they
are in fact imitating the lessons they have
learned from our researchers.
There is always something new to learn.
Beef and grassland guru
gives lowdown on fodder
BALLYMENA beef and sheep farmer Kevin
MacAuley writes:
A large crowd attended the recent Better
Farm Challenge demo in Ballymena Mart.
DAERA beef and grassland guru Norman
Weatherup, gave a very helpful presentation
on the winter fodder crisis. His practical
experience and expertise gives him a deep
understanding of the problems facing many
farmers this winter.
The wettest autumn in living memory left
many fields of silage still standing in the
fields. Some fields were only partly cut and
the quality of the silage in those that were
cut in October and November was poor. The
fodder shortage was aggravated by farmers
being forced to house their cattle early. On
top of this straw supplies were scarce also
due to poor harvest conditions.
Norman recommended that the first
step was to assess the amount of silage on
the farm. When the length of the silo was
multiplied by the width and the depth, all in
feet, and divided by 50, the number of tonnes
was arrived at. Round bales weighed around
The amount of silage required to overwinter the stock should be assessed. An
average suckler cow will consume around
nine tonnes of silage over the winter while a
calf will eat in the region of four tonnes. Small
cows will eat less.
He believes this exercise should be carried
out at intervals during the winter. If silage is
then discovered to be in short supply there
are several options.
The most logical is to scan the cows and
sell off any empty cows. Cull cows are a good
trade at present and he further recommends
selling any cows that rear poor calves. It
would also be a good chance to part with
temperamental cows (I certainly agree with
that), lame cows or cows with poor udders.
He recommends early weaning of calves
and rationing the silage to the cows providing
they are in good condition. However, all the
cows must be able to feed at once or some
will lose too much condition. It is important
to keep cows fit to be able to calve.
Thirdly he recommends that some meal
can be fed to substitute for silage. One kilo
of meal can replace five kilos of silage. Soya
letters to the editor
FarmWeek, 113-117 Donegall Street,
Belfast, BT1 2GE
hulls is an excellent feed at a competitive
A suckler cow needs a minimum of fibre
which could be obtained in 11kgs of silage or
2.5kgs straw daily. Any change of diet should
be introduced gradually to avoid stomach
Meal feeding is more economical than
buying poor quality silage. If buying silage
he recommends having it tested. Some of
the silage made this year has a very high
water content which results in it being very
expensive in feed terms.
Much of the silage made in October and
November is low in sugar and feed value. The
bales should not be stacked as many will go
out of shape due to the high moisture content.
They should be used quickly but first of all
check for fermentation.
Low sugar and a large number of slugs can
delay fermentation. There is also a possibility
that they could heat when opened. Molasses
spread on that silage would make it more
He concluded by pointing out that of
the soils analysed, only 18 per cent were
optimum for nutrients. Eighty two per cent
were low in either phosphorus or potash.
Many of the soils were also deficient in lime.
He maintained that soil sampling is very
worthwhile. Norman received a hearty round
of applause.
I have a lot of sympathy for the many
farmers that are experiencing fodder
shortages or slurry surpluses. It is a stressful
and worrying time. Farmers have more than
enough struggles trying to survive without
the extra burden of the atrocious weather
Let us hope that we will battle through this
winter and have an early spring. Farmers are
tough, strong and resilient and will once again
overcome the problems with this wet, wet,
wet year.
Yours, &c,
Feeling low or feeling stressed?
Helpline: 0845 606 7607
Visit: www.ruralsupport.org.uk


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